This article was originally posted on The Hill’s opinion section by Tim S. McClain on February 27, 2019. The original can be read here.

The Veterans Experience Office currently maintains 153 Community Veterans Engagement Boards (CVEBs) across the country, with 31 in development. These boards represent and serve more than 12 million Veterans and more than 50 million of their families and caregivers. VA is incredibly thankful and appreciative to the nearly 2,500 board members who provide VA with valuable feedback but also works tirelessly to improve the whole health of Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors in their communities. 

CVEBs are supported by organizations such as America’s Warrior Partnership, the Red Cross, AmericaServes, Joining Community Forces, Holland and Knight, University of West Florida, Mission United, and the American Legion to name a few. 

Together, the community driven boards (600 meetings planned across the county this year alone), VA, and supporting organizations are hosting Veterans Experience Action Centers (15 planned this year), training clergy in the community to provide readjustment counseling (8 planned this year), participating in Governors and Mayors Challenge for suicide prevention, and much more. Learn more by contacting a CVEB in your area, or consider starting one! 

Every day, communities across the nation enthusiastically welcome their returning sons and daughters after service in the U.S. military. However, many struggle to agree on the most effective approach for helping veterans reenter the social fabric of the community. This debate often has focused on national perspectives, but the key to empowering veterans lies at the local level. Recognizing this, the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Community Veteran Engagement Board (CVEB) initiative to facilitate collaboration among local veteran-serving organizations.

A CVEB is a community group composed of veterans, advocates, veteran-serving organizations and other civic leaders who collaborate to deliver needed services to the veteran population. More than 100 communities nationwide have established CVEBs, and they each act autonomously with minimal oversight from the VEO.

As the initiative has grown, the VEO and America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit, saw an opportunity to further strengthen local groups by pooling each CVEB’s collective insights and sharing them nationwide. The CVEB Task Force — a group of more than 40 individuals from various CVEBs, national veteran-serving organizations and the VEO — was formed to accomplish this goal. Over the course of six months in 2018, the task force developed guidelines for improving services for veterans at the local level.

The task force’s report offers CVEBs specific guidance on addressing critical issues, and there is much that policymakers and the broader veteran-serving community can learn from these insights.

The task force identified baseline issues that communities should monitor to better understand the overall health and well-being of veterans. These are key outcome areas:

  • Outreach — Outreach programs are essential to understand veterans’ needs and guide them toward assistance;
  • Mental Health — Mental health is connected to nearly every other need that veterans face, from employment and housing to relationships and physical health;
  • Access to health care — From understanding VA benefits to finding the right provider, health care is a concern for nearly every veteran-serving organization;
  • Suicide prevention — VA reports that 20 veterans die by suicide every day, which makes outreach and support programs essential;
  • Homelessness — VA estimates around 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, which can lead to challenges in other areas such as mental and physical health.
  • Employment — Gainful employment and economic stability are major stepping stones for veterans to achieve a better quality of life; and
  • Education — College degrees and professional certifications can lead to stable careers, and veterans often need assistance navigating GI Bill benefits.

Every community will have different priority issues, but these seven areas are essential to creating a veteran-friendly community and should be evaluated regularly to ensure veterans have access to basic resources they need.

The CVEBs are meant to fulfill a role that cannot be accomplished by any one organization on its own. Conversely, a CVEB is not meant to be a one-stop shop that handles every initiative within a community. To ensure local groups are positioned to achieve success, the task force suggests focusing on one or more of these roles:

  • Information — Serve as a central resource for veterans, their families and caregivers;
  • Coordination — Connect veterans with service providers;
  • Convening — Host meetings and events to facilitate collaboration and networking;
  • Data collection — Direct the collection and analysis of data to evaluate impact;
  • Education — Disperse resources on best practices for serving veterans; and
  • Leadership — Raise awareness and generate support for veterans.

Every community will have varying levels of resources and available capacity, so this recommended set of roles should be a starting point to guide local veteran-serving groups.

The third component of the task force’s findings stresses data-driven decisions. Each decision should be based on metrics collected from various sources, including community partners and public databases. This will ensure organizations have a firm understanding of community results and whether activities need to be realigned. There are a wide variety of available data sources, so the task force compiled a comprehensive resource guide outlining options communities can consider.

The task force was convened with CVEBs in mind, but the group’s findings are relevant to any community group. Individuals and organizations can learn more at

Tim S. McClain is chairman of the board of directors for America’s Warrior Partnership. He is a former general counsel for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and active in veteran issues.

This article was originally posted on The Hill’s opinion section by Tim S. McClain on February 27, 2019. The original can be read here.

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Published on Feb. 28, 2019

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  1. Brian Davis March 29, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    This could not be more accurate in assessing what would allow a smoother integration into civilian life. However, so long as there are individuals who are in charge of Behavior Disruptive Committees such as Joseph Hertzler PsyD (Robert J Dole VA in Wichita, Ks) it would appear that a welcoming, even playing field is not something the VA is willing to actually implement itself. It’s a great idea, though, until it’s not.

    The Committee is a clandestine, completely shut-off from oversight, black-box.
    Joseph Hertzler believes he and his peers who use Patient Record Flags based on something as trivial as a disagreement with a medical professional, forever biasing that veteran’s care by having them escorted by Police Officers believes he may act with impunity and anonymity. Unlike the name-tape wearing warriors who faced enemies who wished, trained, and tried to kill them he believes what he does is dangerous enough to warrant such a measure.
    Mmmmm, nope. . .

    This particular welcoming Committee operates under the direction of/in collaboration with the following personnel:
    Rick Amment (Medical Center Director), Robert V Cummins M.D. (Chief of Staff), Joseph Hertzler (Appointed by Rick Amment to run the Committee), Christina Celaya (Former Patient Advocate, newly assigned elsewhere), and Jacklyn Bantam (Current Patient Advocate.) And the first thing they want you to know is as an American veteran and civilian you have no right to due process, and they’ve no intention of ever explaining their decisions. They have also built a form of safety in the following redundancy. Do not be fooled by the Patient Advocate title. Jacklyn and her predecessor both are on the Behavior Disruptive Committee and they only hear one side of a story before permanently scarring a veteran’s record.

    Should you get a Patient Record Flag and approach the Patient Advocate? You are approaching someone who was involved in initiating your future harassment by police officers on behalf of Joseph Hertzler’s bidding, If that sounds like a conflict of interest. . . it’s because it is. Christina Celaya informed me I did not need to copy her on email communications because she was already being kept informed about me.
    For a secret committee they tend to not be very good at keeping secrets.

    Do you fellow veterans a favor. Record everything. Report everything to resources outside the VA and turn the power dynamic on its head. Most vets don’t know about this. If Americans knew the way their Service Members were denied Civil Liberties and Constitutional Rights without any way to respond or defend themselves by a secret, near-dictatorial, unquestionable authority using their tax dollars then, and only then, could there be enough advocates to dethrone the power hungry, paranoid people on the committees that run veterans off from seeking care.

  2. Wendy M Sanders March 19, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Wow This article actually gave me some hope and inspired me because As a female Retired Veteran I can say from first hand experience that this is exactly what I need in my life and I literally need to be apart of my community or I will suffer in isolation so I plan on digging deeper to learn more and get in contact with them ASAP and I also intend on sharing such a great idea to help Veterans back up and serving other Veterans by sharing with other Veterans in my area.
    Thank you for writing this with such clarity and detail so that I can find and utilize these resources that you listed that I have NEVER heard of and I have been Unemployed for almost 4yeas But this Made me motivated. Thank everyone for dedicating their lives to treat our Veterans with Great respect! GOD BLESS

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